The Difference Between Mobile Apps and Web Apps

desktop vs mobile

People today are using their mobile devices to access information more than ever before. Accordingly, if your business is not accessible on mobile it will soon be surpassed by competitors.

However, strategy is required for determining the best approach to enabling users to connect with your business on mobile.

When it comes to creating and deploying apps, there are two different approaches — native apps and web apps. Before fully investing in the creation of your app, you’ll need to decide which type of app will best suit your budget, requirements, and goals.

Should you invest in developing a mobile app, or should you focus your resources on building a mobile-responsive web app?

In this article you’ll learn the differences between mobile and web apps, and gain insight that will inform your decision to develop one type of app over the other.

Is a Native App the Same as a Mobile App?

The terms native app and mobile app are often used interchangeably, but in reality they don’t mean the exact same thing.

Mobile apps refer to any applications that can be used on mobile devices, while native apps are smartphone applications that are coded in a specific programming language, such as Objective C for iOS or Java for Android operating systems.

Native apps can be installed directly onto these particular devices, and users can typically download them from app stores like the Apple App Store and the Google Play store.

The fact that native apps are designed and developed for specific use on particular platforms results in fast performance and a high degree of reliability. Native apps are also able to access a smartphone’s camera, address book, and other devices, which allows for increased functionality. Some native apps even enable users to use the app without an internet connection.

Related: Our 4 Favorite Strategies for Getting ROI Out of Your Mobile App

What is a Web App?

We design web apps to be fully functional and accessible on whatever device a user chooses to use. Mobile or desktop browser, our web apps operate equally well however your users access them.

Sometimes the differences between web apps and websites can cause a bit of confusion. To clarify, a web app is essentially a website that is designed in a fluid manner that is suitable for responding to being viewed on a smartphone.

Web apps do not need to be downloaded in order for users to access them.

Mobile Apps vs. Web Apps

As we’ve discussed, native mobile apps are built for a specific platform, and run on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Web apps are accessible via internet browsers, and will adapt to whichever device the user is using. Unlike native mobile apps, web apps are not native to any particular system or device, and therefore do not need to be downloaded or installed.

The best of the best web apps are responsive enough to the devices that they are being used on that at times they can function like a mobile app, which can cause confusion.

Another difference between these two types of apps is that web apps require an active internet connection in order to function, whereas mobile apps can often function while offline.

Mobile apps tend to be faster and more efficient than web apps, but in order to maintain optimum functionality users must regularly download updates, whereas web apps update themselves.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Mobile Apps and Web Apps

Now that we have established an understanding of the differences between mobile apps and web apps, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Advantages of native mobile apps:

Faster than web apps
Can access device/system resources such as a camera or GPS
Can function without internet connection
Have increased safety and security, as native apps must be approved by the App Store
Are easier to develop thanks to the availability of developer tools, interface elements, and SDKs

Disadvantages of native mobile apps:

More expensive to develop compared to web apps
Designing and building the app from scratch is usually required In order for it to be compatible with different platforms such as iOS and Android
Can be costly to maintain and consistently update
Can be difficult to have a native mobile app approved by the App Store

Advantages of web apps:

Function in-browser, and therefore do not need to be downloaded or installed
Are easy to maintain, as they have a common codebase regardless of the mobile platform
Can be set to update themselves
Are easier and faster to build than mobile apps
App store approval is not required, so web apps can be launched more quickly

Disadvantages of web apps:

Do not work without internet connection
Are slower than mobile apps
Can be difficult to discover since they aren’t hosted in a specific database like the App Store
Carry higher risks of poor quality, and security can’t be guaranteed since web apps don’t need to be approved by the App Store

Posted in Sep 16, 2020